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Council hopefuls ask: Why is gas higher in E'town?

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Councilman says move is a stunt

By Bob White

ON HIGH GAS PRICES IN ELIZABETHTOWN:

  “We want answers. It doesn’t make a lick of sense.” Matt Wyatt, Elizabethtown City Council candidate.   “What can you do?” Elizabethtown Councilman Tony Bishop.   By BOB WHITE

bwhite@thenewsenterprise.com

ELIZABETHTOWN — Following the steps of Louisville leadership which scrutinized the cost of gasoline in Jefferson County about a month ago, three Elizabethtown city council hopefuls have appealed to the Kentucky attorney general for help in finding out why fuel often costs more in Elizabethtown than in surrounding communities.

“We want answers,” said Matt Wyatt, one of three men who submitted a written letter Tuesday to Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway asking for help.

Wyatt said he and fellow city council candidates Bill Bennett and Steve Atcher “are not asking government to regulate the gas market,” but to find out why Elizabethtown motorists pay more for a vital commodity.

With a spreadsheet of information detailing Speedway and other gas dealers’ costs per gallon in 2006 and 2008, the trio claim the Speedway-Marathon group is directly responsible for gasoline spikes in Elizabethtown.

“It doesn’t make a lick of sense,” Wyatt said.

When Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear pointed out gas price inequality in Jefferson County last month, Wyatt said gasoline dealers “were shamed into lowering prices.”

Now he wants Conway to support an inquiry into Elizabethtown prices as was done with Jefferson County leaders.

“We should matter as much as they do,” Wyatt said.

In the letter, Wyatt, Bennett and Atcher asked Conway to “scrutinize the manipulation of Elizabethtown gas prices by Marathon’s subsidiary Speedway just as diligently as you are investigating Marathon’s pricing in Louisville, and ask that you include Elizabethtown’s data as you decide whether or not to bring a new lawsuit against Marathon.”

There currently is no lawsuit pending against Speedway Marathon regarding summer 2008 gas prices.

Kentucky Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection did not respond to phone calls Friday. A staff member with that office said she was unsure if the letter had reached Conway’s office.

Speedway Marathon representatives said company prices for fuel are directly tied to the price of crude oil.

“And we all know crude prices have backed off so the price of gasoline has backed off with it,” said Speedway Marathon spokeswoman Linda Casey.

Speedway stations aren’t always the cause of gas price increases, she said.

“We are a visible market,” Casey said. “But sometimes we lead and other times we follow.”

Wyatt said he hopes the “hard questions” he and other council challengers are asking state leaders to follow up on show constituents that he, Atcher and Bennett are willing to “ask hard questions.”

He said “the lack of willingness to ask those questions” has been representative of the current city council members.

Veteran Elizabethtown Councilman Tony Bishop said the trio’s appeal to Conway was an obvious political stunt.

A Kroger employee and councilman for 13 years, Bishop said he doesn’t “see what a city council could do” about gas prices in Elizabethtown.

“If they want to call (Conway) and ask him, they can, just like anyone else,” Bishop said. “But I can’t control what we charge here (at Kroger).”

While watching his employer’s fuel prices, Bishop said he’s seen local gas prices benefit Elizabethtown motorists as much as rise to their detriment.

“What can you do?” he asked.

Wyatt’s response to Bishop’s comments was short and to the point.

“If the mayor of Louisville and the governor of Kentucky can hold a press conference and ask why the citizens of Louisville are paying higher prices than others around them, then why can't our leaders? I am not surprised Tony Bishop doesn’t get it.”

Bob White can be reached at (270) 505-1750.